Philadelphia – As the polls closed in Pennsylvania at 8:00 p.m. tonight, the sound of sirens erupted from a fire station at Forty-third and Market streets. Philadelphia Fire Station Engine 5, Ladder 6, Battalion 11 served as a West Philadelphia polling station, and the volunteers began celebrating when they got word that Senator Barack Obama had won the state of Pennsylvania.
It had been a long day for volunteers who had arrived at the station at 6:00 a.m. Aaron Wise, 51, the judge of elections for the Sixth Ward, said it was busy all morning and voters here had waited for about half an hour to cast their votes. “It’s different this year because people came out early and have been very excited to vote,” Wise said. He has been an election judge for twenty-eight years, and he said that this is the first time he’s seen this kind of turnout.
“One girl had just turned 18,” recalls Donna Dobies, 61, a volunteer. “She was so excited that she could vote, she had tears in her eyes.” Dobies felt compelled to volunteer for this election because Obama stole her heart in 2004 when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention. She volunteered for Bobby Kennedy in New York in 1968 and said she hasn’t felt the same about any other candidate until now.
Beatrice Hamza Bassey and sixteen of her colleagues from the New York law firm Hughes, Hubbard & Reed LLP, volunteered to come to Philadelphia to make sure any voters who wanted to vote, could. Bassey, 37, was posted at Engine 5. She said the lawyers managed several different issues over the course of the day. “Some voters’ names weren’t on the list, some of the new voters had issues with their ID, and some were at the wrong polling station. We made sure everyone voted before they left.”
Bassey, a partner at the firm, submitted an absentee ballot so she could be in Philadelphia. “Our firm let all of us take the day off,” she said, “so we could serve as election observers.”